After a summer of protests around the country centered on racism and police brutality and calls on social media for Americans to take action, books have arisen as an important resource to learn more and support Black-owned businesses.
Reading provides a valuable look at the past and an avenue for continued research when the protests are no longer front-page news.
“A lot of people don’t really know the history of why things are the way that they are,” City of Los Angeles Director of Branch Library Services Chad Helton told USA TODAY. “What I would recommend is really looking into the scholarship of Black history. That way you can really understand how racism has manifested itself and how it’s become structural and institutional. … All of what is happening is connected to systemic and institutionalized racism.”
Many major online book retailers sold out of books on fighting racism over the last few months, but there are other options for purchasing popular titles and exploring which published works are best for you. Services such as Audible, Apple, Amazon, Google Play, Nook and Libby also provide digital or audio copies for those who prefer or require learning with a different medium.
Whether you’re looking for titles to help expand your knowledge or searching for where to find them, we’ve rounded up options for beginning or continuing your reading quest:
If you’re looking for resources on how to talk about race or to brush up on history and important Black figures, experts say these books are a good place to start.
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander is a “great book to read,” because it talks about the systemic problem of the criminal justice system, says Lorenzo Boyd, associate professor of criminal justice and assistant provost of diversity and inclusion at the University Of New Haven.
Dr. Beverly Tatum, psychologist and author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race” and “Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations About Race in an Era of School Resegregation,” recommends checking out “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo or “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad.
“From Slavery To Freedom: A History of African Americans” by John Hope Franklin offers a comprehensive look at how the foundation of the United States has dictated racism in the present, Helton added.
Expert recommendations, picks from the best-sellers lists and more:
- “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi”Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Jennifer L. Eberhardt “Raising White Kids” by Jennifer Harvey”So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo “The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement” by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson”White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo”The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin”Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge”They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement” by Wesley Lowery”Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That The Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall”Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism” by bell hooks”Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People” by Ben Crump”From Slavery To Freedom: A History of African Americans” by John Hope Franklin “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and William Barber II”Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates”Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander”Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America” by USA TODAY reporter Charisse Jones and Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden”Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” by John Lewis and Michael D’Orso”The Burden” edited by USA TODAY Network columnist Rochelle Riley”Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde”This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa “Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That a Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall”The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement” by Dr. William Barber”Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” by Brittney Cooper”When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America” by Paula Giddings”Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism” by Patricia Hill Collins”Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson”Wandering in Strange Lands” by Morgan Jerkins
Impactful fiction from Black authors
The learning doesn’t stop with nonfiction works. Black authors have made notable and creative contributions to the worlds of fiction and poetry writing over the years, including Pulitzer Prize-winning titles.
Real-world issues are the basis for these best-selling stories and poems:
- “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange”The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead”Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston”Passing” by Nella Larsen”The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison”Sula” by Toni Morrison”The Color Purple” by Alice Walker”White Teeth” by Zadie Smith”An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones”The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe”Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid”The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead”Luster” by Raven Leilani
Books of poetry by Black writers
From historically-significant works of prose (Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 with “Annie Allen”) to contemporary dissections of culture, these award-winning and best-selling books of poems offer a lyrical approach to sharing Black stories.
- “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou”Montage of a Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes “Annie Allen” by Gwendolyn Brooks “I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood” by Tiana Clark”Finna: Poems” by Nate Marshall”Coal” by Audre Lorde”Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine”There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé” by Morgan Parker”The Tradition” by Jericho Brown”The Black Unicorn: Poems” by Audre Lorde”And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems” by Maya Angelou
Help explain race to kids with these children’s books
Talking to kids about complex world issues can be tough, but these books can help young people learn in a gentle, thoughtful way.
“I’ve seen a surge in different books to help with this situation,” Ashay By the Bay founder and CEO Deborah Day told USA TODAY. “There’s a lot going on… Children need storybooks and they need the parents to sometimes sit down and read with them. That’s just that closeness – that opportunity is a great way to begin the healing process.”
For preschool and elementary school-age kids, Dr. Tatum recommends sharing “Something Happened in Our Town” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard. For teenagers, Angie Thomas’ “The Hate U Give” is a good place to start, she told USA TODAY.
Best-selling stories to help younger kids:
- “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz”Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester”The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism” by Pat ThomasSesame Street’s “We’re Different, We’re the Same” by Bobbi Jane Kates”Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard”I Am Enough” by Grace Byers”Happy in Our Skin” by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia”Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes”Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” by Jennifer Harvey”Daddy Why Am I Brown?: A healthy conversation about skin color and family” by Bedford F. Palmer”A Terrible Thing Happened” by Margaret Holmes“Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi”Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry”Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights” by Rob Sanders and Jared Andrew Schorr “The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family” by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali Hatem Aly
- “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas”Harbor Me” by Jacqueline Woodson”This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work” by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand”Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson”Dear White People” by Justin Simien”The Black Kids” by Christina Hammonds Reed”Dear Martin” by Nic Stone”All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds”The Black Flamingo” by Dean Atta”The Black Kids” by Christina Hammonds Reed”This Is My America” by Kim Johnson”Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves” by Glory Edim”I’m Not Dying With You Tonight” by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
‘First look for sameness’:Kristen Bell’s new children’s book urges kids, adults to focus on commonality
Black-owned bookstores to support
Bigger retailers may be selling out of the book you’re interested – but don’t forget about local shops! These bookstores run by Black owners also offer a slew of titles if you’re looking to shop local.
Mahogany Books:Bookstore based in Washington, D.C.
Ashay By The Bay: San Francisco Bay Area kids bookstore
Harriett’s Bookshop: Philadelphia-based store named after Harriett Tubman
Semicolon Bookstore: Chicago’s only Black woman-owned independent bookstore
The Lit Bar:Bronx-based bookstore and wine bar
Sister’s Uptown Bookstore: Family owned and operated bookstore and community space in Manhattan
Sankofa: Washington, D.C.-based bookstore that celebrates Pan-African culture and offers book clubs and children’s events
Hakim’s Bookstore: Philadelphia’s first and oldest African American bookstore specializing in Black history
Cafe con Libros: Feminist, independent bookstore based in Brooklyn, New York
More:Inside historic Black bookstores’ fight for survival against the COVID-19 pandemic
Contributing: Sara M. Moniuszko, USA TODAY.